Edward III (1312-1377)Edward III (1312-1377) - England's third consecutive monarch named Edward; all three would play a major role in the course of England's history.  Edward I ("Longshanks") led the last Crusade (see Seventh Crusade below) and carried out an extended campaign against Scotland for which he earned the nickname "Hammer of the Scots".  His son, Edward II, is remembered as one of the country's worst kings ever, and seriously weakened the monarchy.  On the other hand, his son, Edward III, is celebrated as one of England's greatest rulers.  He became king in 1327 after his father was deposed and murdered by the aristocracy, led by his wife's lover, Roger Mortimer.  However, at that time, young Edward was only 14 years old and considered a figurehead.  Real power was vested in his mother, Isabella, and Mortimer who was the de facto ruler.  Three years later, though, in 1330, Edward came into his own and seized control, and had Mortimer executed.  But he pardoned his mother where she lived out the rest of her life comfortably and quietly.  Edward's reign was dominated primarily by his belief that, in addition to being king of England, he also was heir the the throne of France, through his mother (who was French).  So when Charles IV the Fair died in 1328, only a year after Edward became king of England, he would not recognize Philip VI as France's new king.  This led to the outbreak of The Hundred Years' War in 1337 (which will be dealt with more extensively below).


It should be noted that there was a fourth Edward, known as the Black Prince.  He was Edward III's son and was the baddest warrior of the family.  His nickname came (probably) from the fact that he wore black armour in battle which, centuries later, gave rise to the legend of the Black Knight.  He fought the king's battles and was a primary reason for England's early success in The Hundred Years' War.  He also was the king's heir, but never took the throne because he died one year before his father.  Instead his own son, Richard II succeeded Edward III as king.  The other major event during Edward III's reign was the outbreak of the Black Death (see Black Death below).  Being in the Northwestern most corner of Europe, it hit England in 1349, well after it had already ravaged much of the rest of Europe.  But it wreaked plenty of havoc on the small island nation nonetheless.  Edward responded by passing the Statute of Laborours of 1351 to address the labour shortage caused by the plague (it failed).  Despite his popularity, the end of his reign is largely considered a failure, primarily due to inactivity caused by ill health after such a long reign (50 years).  Still, he is credited with turning England into one of the most powerful countries in Europe within his lifetime.